Anna Bergenström, Fanny Bergenström
15 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
Fanny Bergenström

A nice cup of tea warms the soul

Tea has a calming, soothing effect. It touches upon something primordial, or at least very old, inside of us. Maybe because we have been drinking tea for thousands of years, or because it is so closely linked to solemn, peaceful ceremonies like those in Japan or China. But also because of the comforting, everyday ritual of brewing your own cup of tea, just the way you like it. All across the globe, people drink tea at all hours of the day. Tea is something we have in common, and life happens around the teapot. A nice cup of tea can bring us closer, in conversations and friendly get-togethers. Tea is the world’s most common beverage, second only to water.

Legends tell of the Chinese Emperor and herbalist Shennong, hailed as the Father of Chinese medicine, who always boiled his drinking water for reasons of health. One day, in the year 2737 BC, as the Emperor sat under a tree, a leaf floated into his kettle and coloured the water green. He was delighted, and found the beverage both refreshing and relaxing. The tree was a Camellia sinensis, which in the wild can grow up to 15 metres or more. When cultivated, these tea plants are kept waist-high, making it easier to harvest the young shoots that are used for tea. A single shrub can produce tea crops for over a hundred years, which is truly amazing.

Oolong, green, black and white tea

Tea is primarily grown in China, Sri Lanka and Kenya, as well as in Japan, Indonesia, Turkey and Iran. There are thousands of different types of tea, all originating from the tea plant. Once harvested, the leaves are treated to obtain their different characteristics. Tea is usually divided into three main groups: green tea, oolong and black tea, depending on whether the tea leaves are fermented or not.

Green tea is made with fresh tea leaves that are dried immediately after being harvested, without being fermented. This way the leaves maintain their lovely green colour and don’t oxidise. Green tea contains antioxidants and flavonoids, which are very beneficial to your health. When brewing green tea, the water should be around 80°C (let the water cool for about 3 minutes after it has boiled). Steep the tea for 1-2 minutes, no longer, as green tea can quickly turn bitter.

Oolong or wulong is a mild, partly fermented tea, which means that it is only fermented to a certain point in order to develop its unique flavour. These teas are quite fragrant, often with flowery, fruity notes and a slightly sweet aroma. Oolong, meaning ‘black dragon’ in Chinese, is graded according to quality and can be very expensive. The quality assessment not only considers how the tea leaves were treated, but also where and at what time of year they were harvested, and which part of the tea plant was harvested from.

Black tea leaves have been entirely fermented and oxidised after being picked. The tea leaves are left to soften after the harvest, and then cut into smaller pieces that are rolled in large presses to squeeze out the liquid. During fermentation, the moisture in the leaves oxidises when it comes in contact with air, and the tea turns black during the final drying process. Black tea is brewed by pouring over some boiling water that has only just been brought to the boil. Steep the tea for 3-5 minutes, ideally in a preheated teapot.

White tea is made with the outermost, silver-coloured shoots at the bud stage. The tea leaves are then lightly steamed and dried. White tea has a pleasant, mild flavour and is considered very wholesome. Brew white tea in the same way as green tea, but let it steep a little bit longer.

Darjeeling, gyokuro and yunnan ...

Magnolia-scented tea from China, darjeeling from the misty mountains of India, or green pearly dew from Japan. The softly poetic tea names evoke places far, far away, and, in a sense, to drink a cup of freshly brewed tea can be to travel for a moment...

Keemun tea is a famous, black Chinese tea that is soft and mildly refreshing with a gentle aroma. The small, rolled black leaves make a reddish tea.

Pu’er, a black, post-fermented tea with an earthy quality, originates from the Chinese Yunnan province. It is often sold compressed into bricks, and is considered very beneficial to your health. Pu’er tea can be stored for a very long time: 40-50 years is not unusual.

Gunpowder is a Chinese green tea, and its leaves are rolled into tiny pellets that unfold when brewed. In Chinese, it is called ‘pearl tea’ or ‘bead tea’, and Gunpowder is made with young tea shoots and buds.

Yunnan tea comes from the Yunnan province, a famous tea-growing region in China, thought to be where all teas originated. Yunnan tea is a Chinese green tea with lots of flavour.

Lapsang souchong, a Chinese black tea, obtains its characteristically smoky flavour from letting the tea leaves wither before drying them over burning pine wood.

Brick tea is the name given to teas compressed into bricks to simplify transportation. Used widely in Tibet and Mongolia, where the tea is brewed with yak butter and salt, and is known as ‘butter tea’ or po cha.

Jasmine tea is a type of Chinese green or oolong tea that is stored with budding jasmine flowers. When the flowers unfurl, the tea leaves absorb the jasmine fragrance. This procedure is repeated several times until the tea acquires a delicate jasmine flavour. Sometimes a few dried jasmine flowers are added to the tea leaves.

Lotus tea is Vietnamese tea flavoured with lotus flowers. Lotus tea is considered very healthy, and is also used in certain Vietnamese dishes.

Darjeeling, often called the champagne of teas, is an Indian black tea that grows in the foothills of the Himalayas. The high altitudes and cool climate cause the tea plants to grow very slowly, developing a unique flavour, with notes of rose, citrus and fruit. Darjeeling teas are often given the name of the plantation, which are usually small, family-owned farms, and just like wines from different vineyards, these teas vary in character and taste. Darjeeling tea harvested during the first spring harvest is especially light and considered to be the very finest.

Assam tea, harvested from the domestic Indian tea plant variety, Camellia sinensis var. Assamica, is a black, robust and sometimes even rather spicy tea. Assam tea is grown in India, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Ceylon tea is the collective name given to the best teas from Sri Lanka. These unadulterated, aromatic teas are cultivated in the mountainous inland.

Earl Grey is a black tea flavoured with bergamot oil from the small citrus fruit bergamot, Citrus bergamia. This is one of the classic, well-loved teas.

English breakfast is actually a mixture of black teas, often containing the robust Indian Assam tea and fruitier, more flavourful teas from Sri Lanka.

Sencha is the most commonly grown green tea in Japan. The first harvest of the season is of a particularly high quality, and later on, the tea becomes more full-bodied in flavour.

Gyokuro (‘jade dew’ or ‘precious dewdrop’) is a very fine Japanese green tea. The tea plants are grown in the shade, only the uppermost buds are picked and the leaves are subsequently rolled by hand. Gyokuro teas are fresh and somewhat sweet in flavour. The tea used in the Japanese tea ceremony is green powder tea, matcha, and is made with gyokuro leaves. The tea is ground into a fine powder, then whisked in warm water with a small bamboo whisk.

Genmaicha is a Japanese green tea flavoured with roasted brown rice. A light, tasty tea with a slightly nutty flavour that goes very well with Japanese food.

Kukicha, or twig tea, is a unique-flavoured Japanese tea containing both leaves and tender stalks and twigs from the tea plant.

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